Marcus Folmar has a unique way of looking at his screenwriting abilities in that he says he is both right-brained and left-brained, which serves him well as a screenwriter. By Rita Cook
“I’m equally right and left-brained, I think,” Folmar explains. “Evidence the fact that on my SATs I got identical scores for both the math and the verbal—575 each. Screenwriting works for me because it’s as much science as it is art, as much structure as creativity.” That said, it was Folmar’s creativity that prompted him to enter a writing contest in which he sold his first screenplay, called I’m Perfect. “I entered and won Writemovies.com’s 2002 International Writing Contest with this project. The recognition led to meeting the guys at rossWWmedia who optioned and eventually produced the movie.”
I’m Perfect, in Folmar’s own words, is a story about, “the handsomest, most romantic man in Los Angeles who is determined to find the perfect woman, if there is such a thing.” Folmar wrote the main character, Lewis, “out of a desire to see onscreen a black man that defies stereotype. Though, coincidentally, the fact that Lewis is African American is of little significance to the story.” The script is a romantic comedy about a man who has allowed his list-making and obsessive-compulsive behavior to take control of his love life. “No matter how much a girl might have going for herself, if she doesn’t possess even one of the qualities on his ‘perfect woman list,’ he’s not interested,” Folmar says. “No one measures up until Lewis encounters Cecile, played by Sydney Tamiia Poitier, who he soon learns matches his list perfectly … or at least she appears to. When Lewis learns that Cecile might not be everything she first seemed, he calls it quits yet finds it difficult to sever ties with Cecile as deftly as he’s done with others in his past. In the end Lewis must decide if he’ll listen to what his head is telling him he wants or what his heart is telling him he needs.”
Folmar came up with the idea for I’m Perfect while attending Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois where he majored in and received a B.S. in radio, TV and film production. “While I was at Northwestern, I wrote for one of my assignments a role-reversal comedy called Looking for Love,” he says. “It was about a man who desperately wanted to find true love but kept meeting women who only wanted to play the field. I put it away after I got a B+ I think. Years later when I was searching for an idea, I pulled it out.” However, Folmar was not interested in his script Looking for Love anymore because he felt it was broad and too over the top. Instead, he stripped away what he describes as the Meatballs moments, did his best to add back some truth and nine months later he had his movie. Folmar sold the film to rossWWmedia, a literary/management company-turned-production company. He met Alex Ross, the principal in the company, after he won the Writemovies.com contest. “[Ross] loved the concept and story and wanted to hip-pocket the script to see if he could generate any interest amongst his contacts,” Folmar explains. After the script was pitched around and comments came back such as, “It’s too small,” “It’s too big,” “It’s too black,” “It’s not urban enough,” and even “Far too smartly written to make a convincing romantic comedy,” Ross decided to move into production with the film himself. Folmar says he got paid the minimal fee of $10,000, but that by rossWWmedia producing the film it also allowed him to be far more involved in the process than a typical first-time writer. “I had input into everything—from the selection of a director, to casting, to the production of the behind-the-scenes ‘Making of’ video,” he says. “In fact, I would eventually earn an associate producer’s credit for all the ways in which I was able to participate in the life of the project.”
Folmar says he has a very specific way of writing. “Generally, I exercise a four-part writing process,” he explains. “First, I take my concept and build it to an idea that I can express in a one-page treatment. After that, I like to write a detailed character breakdown and analysis for my main two ptor three characters. You’d be amazed at how many story possibilities just naturally emerge during this exercise. Third, I do a scene-by-scene outline where I work out the details. Finally, I use the outline to go to script. I never edit until the first draft is done.”
As for advice to other screenwriters starting out in the craft, he says he watches more films than he reads scripts. “Although I think reading scripts and watching movies are equally important, I don’t read nearly as much as I should. I see everything, however,” he says. “Good and bad, I feel there’s something to learn from them all. Still, probably the best exercise I’ve ever done is watching a movie with the script in hand. This is valuable because learning how to translate what you want to see onscreen onto the page is one of the screenwriter’s greatest challenges.”
For Folmar’s future, he says that he sold this script without representation, and since that time he has completed two new screenplays. “Now that production is completed on I’m Perfect, I am using the film along with my new specs to get meetings with agents and managers and, hopefully, to sell my next script very soon.”
RITA COOK is the editor-in-chief of Insider magazine and is also a producer and screenwriter-turned-novelist. While currently working on a project with Duva Films called The Kiss of The Vampire, she also recently published a book called Angel’s Destiny which she adapted from her screenplay written several years ago. Angel’s Destiny can be found at PublishAmerica.com. Cook teaches a travel writing course at Gotham Writers’ Workshop in New York.